I went to two different worship services Sunday morning – I met my sister-in-law and my two nephews at their church, Bell Buckle United Methodist, and then rode with them to Goose Pond United Methodist, the church where my father has been serving since last summer, arriving not long after he’d started his sermon.
Both Rev. David Adams at Bell Buckle and my father at Goose Pond were using the Wesley Study Bible, instantly recognizable even from the pews from its two-tone green-and-brown binding.
It only served to remind me that I haven’t seen my Wesley Study Bible in months. I have no idea where I might have left it, perhaps at some church where I went as a lay speaker. I was looking at the lectionary passages tonight for this coming Sunday – I will be speaking at my home church, First UMC Shelbyville – and wishing I had my Wesley Study Bible to look them up in. I have plenty of other study Bibles, but I really do like the WSB.
I have several Bible translations on my Kindle, but an e-reader display isn’t ideal for the footnotes and marginalia of a good study Bible.
Well, it looks like Walmart is giving me gibberish, so I’m going to go ahead and give you the story of what happened yesterday with my webcam.
My prior webcam cost about $5, literally from the checkout line at some dollar store, and, frankly, the video looked like it came from a $5 webcam. A few weeks ago, some stranger left a snarky comment on something I’d posted noting that better webcams are now available.
Last weekend, I wanted to post a video encouraging people to attend the symphony concert, and so instead of using the webcam I held my phone at arm’s length. It worked, but it wasn’t very convenient (and my arm got tired).
I went online to see how much a new webcam would cost. One of the results was from Walmart’s online shopping web site; a Logitech webcam for $13.30. (Remember that price.) A few days later, after payday, I went online and ordered that webcam under Walmart’s “ship-to-store” program, where you save on shipping costs by picking the item up at your local Walmart store. They said that pickup was available as soon as that day, indicating that the store already had the item in stock.
Walmart accepted my order, but then a couple hours later cancelled it, saying that the item wasn’t available at my selected Walmart store.
At lunchtime yesterday, I decided to drop by Walmart and see what they had in terms of webcams. I had been to Walmart a day or two earlier, before payday, and vaguely remembered there being one model on clearance sale.
I found a webcam on a cart with other clearance sale items, marked down from $18 to $15. There were three of them on the cart. It looked like a good little webcam, so I purchased it and brought it home.
It wasn’t until I got the webcam home that I figured out it was the exact same model, the Logitech C110, that I’d attempted to purchase online. My online order was cancelled because the webcam wasn’t in stock for the regular price of $13.30, and yet when I went to the store the item was, in fact, there, for the low, low markdown “clearance” price of $15.
I e-mailed Walmart’s online store, including a scan of my cash register receipt from the brick-and-mortar store, and hoped for an apology or maybe even some credit. This morning, I got an e-mail saying they were reviewing it but basically making the excuse that store pricing and online pricing weren’t necessarily the same. I can understand some variation between the two, but the fact of the matter is that they told me the item was out of stock when it was in stock, and the full retail price online was less than what the store was saying was a marked-down “clearance” price. It just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Happily, the webcam itself seems to be working well, and it’s a great improvement over the dollar-store model.
It had become a running joke between Dawn Holley and me that this year’s “Symphony at the Celebration” concert was cursed. It seemed everything that could go wrong did go wrong. That was the case in the lead-up to the event, and it was even the case tonight – the “instrument petting zoo” was stuck in rush-hour traffic getting out of Nashville, no one had taken care of the cooler of bottled water for the symphony musicians, and so on and so on.
Our crowd was down – which we were expecting. In fact, we were expecting worse than we got. The date of the concert has to do with when the Symphony is available and when Calsonic Arena is available; the organizing committee doesn’t set the date, we just have to deal with what we’re given. This year’s date was later than normal and conflicted with a couple of other activities that probably cut down on our crowd.
But you know what? It all worked. Everyone had a great time. Once the instrument petting zoo showed up, it was mobbed by kids (and some adults) anxious to try their hands at real-life instruments:
This young man, by the way, made a point of coming up to both me and Dawn, individually, after the concert and (prompted by his grandmother, but adorable anyway) thanking us for bringing the symphony to town. He shook our hands.
Albert-George Schram and the Nashville Symphony were in fine form, with one of their best programs ever, including selections from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, and an Irish sing-along. My friend and former castmate Joe Rada told me he was in tears during a Puccini medley.
I have to say I teared up a little bit during the traditional finale, “Stars And Stripes Forever,” one of four selections which the symphony played along with the Community High School Band. As always, Maestro Schram asked the piccolo player from the high school band – which, this year, meant a young woman named Victoria Brown, at right in the photo below – to take the solo. (The photo was taken during a pre-concert rehearsal.) Over the past seven years, seven Bedford County high school students have had the opportunity to solo with the Grammy-Award-winning Nashville Symphony. That’s a memory they’ll treasure forever.
The Community band, led by Jimmy Bratcher, sounded fine both playing along with the symphony and playing on their own just before intermission. A brass ensemble composed of both Community students and alumni played during intermission and during the pre-concert period.
I’m proud to say that all three of our public high schools have great band programs. My own alma mater, Cascade High School, didn’t have band when I was a student, but they won a statewide award last year. We rotate among the three high schools, and it will be Cascade’s turn in 2014, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
As I said, our crowd was down a little, but everyone who did attend seemed to have a really good time. I heard lots and lots of positive comments, and the crowd’s energetic applause made it clear they were having a good time. I am tired – I ran up higher numbers on my Fitbit today than I have in some time – but happy. What a wonderful night.
My tastes in music are eclectic, but I’ve always professed that my two favorite musical talents are Randy Stonehill and Terry Scott Taylor, both of whom I grew to love when I was in college. Randy, who goes back to the very early days of contemporary Christian music in the 1970s, is a singer-songwriter. Terry is the focal point of two overlapping bands, one called Daniel Amos (also known as DA) and the other called the Swirling Eddies, and he’s in a third band, Lost Dogs, and also releases solo albums. I still remember going with friends to see Randy Stonehill and Daniel Amos as a double bill in, I think, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, while a student at Oral Roberts University.
Two or three years later, when I was a senior in the spring of 1984, I was vice president in charge of student activities for the ORU Student Association. Our concert chair, Mike Rapp, brought in Randy on a double bill with Mark Heard (another favorite of mine, who died tragically young). I’ve told this story before, but I’m telling it again. I intended to sit next to Randy at the after-concert meal, and meet someone who was already one of my musical heroes.
Well, Randy ended up going through one of those airport-hell trips on his way to Tulsa – delays, missed connections, everything that could possibly go wrong. He arrived exhausted. Then, we had to tell him that, because of an arcane ORU rule, we wouldn’t be able to hand out flyers for Compassion International, a worthy charity with which Randy was closely affiliated and which he promoted at all of his concerts. Randy probably had every right to object or make a scene. He didn’t. He was the perfect gentleman. He gave a great concert – I guarantee, no one in the audience had any idea how tired he was – and stayed down front afterward to talk to anyone who wanted to talk to him. He behaved exactly as you would hope a Christian artist would behave. It’s so nice to meet one of your heroes and have them live up to your high expectations.
Needless to say, and quite understandably, he didn’t stick around for the after-concert dinner, and so I didn’t get the chance to have any sort of conversation with him. I met Mark Heard, and asked him a question which I realized as soon as I heard it coming out of my mouth was ridiculously stupid.
I saw Randy one other time in concert, a few years after college, when he was at the War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville. I only saw DA in concert that one time.
OK, let’s jump to 2011. After not having toured in years, DA books a few dates, including one in Smyrna. Smyrna! But they failed to check with me on the scheduling, and managed to book the concert during one of the two weeks that summer when I was at Camp Cumberland Pines at Mountain T.O.P.’s Adults In Ministry program. By a strange coincidence, my roommate in camp that week was devoted Mountain T.O.P. volunteer “Smitty” Smith, a member of the very church in Smyrna where DA was performing.
Now, it’s 2013. Randy Stonehill was scheduled to appear May 18 and 19 at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville as part of the “One Way Experience,” a sort of CCM nostalgia event also featuring Chuck Girard, Michael Omartian, Evie and The Archers. For my birthday, my wonderful sister, Elecia, gave me a ticket to the May 18 concert….
… which has now been cancelled, for some unannounced reason.
I can’t win.
I was out sick last Monday and had to miss my weekly time at Learning Way Elementary, so I looked forward to it even more this week.
I was gratified to see how eager the kids were to be picked by Ms. Aymett to be in my group.
I’m feeling much better this week, but still coughing quite a bit – I’ve still got some chest congestion that I’m getting rid of. Anyway, between that and the fact that I’m just generally fat and out of shape, I was a little sweaty when I got to Ms. Aymett’s class this morning.
“You’re sweating, Mr. Carney,” said one of the kids, as we played Double Duel. “I thought you were crying, but you’re sweating.”
We had a great time with the game. Just as last time, the air was filled with various comical buzzer sounds even when the kids weren’t buzzing in with an answer. But it was OK.
In Ms. Hester’s class, we worked with a little booklet about scientists which compared them to detectives. The cover of the booklet had a caricature of a man in a deerstalker cap.
“What’s that thing he’s holding?”
“That’s a pipe,” I responded. “Smoking is bad, but that’s a pipe. That drawing is supposed to look like a famous detective named Sherlock Holmes.”
The kids reacted to the book, which was nice. One was disappointed that it wasn’t about a real detective. Another asked how the man in one of the pictures could be looking at dinosaur tracks when dinosaurs lived a long, long time ago, leading me to try to explain how fossils exist.
At the end, we were supposed to do a Venn diagram showing the overlap between scientists and detectives, but just as soon as I had the kids mark the two circles I realized it was time for me to leave.
I’ve only got a week or two more of this before school ends; I need to figure out exactly what the schedule is. I’ll miss it this summer.
Check and see if there’s a program like this in your community. If you’re in Tennessee, you can contact your local United Way and ask about the “Raise Your Hand Tennessee” program. Now’s a good time to volunteer to do this starting in the fall. Reading with kids, whether it’s in a big group, a small group or one-on-one, can make a huge difference in the education process. It can also be personally rewarding.
I got my first-ever passport in August 2002, while preparing for my first-ever foreign mission trip, to Nicaragua in January 2003. Passports are good for 10 years, and mine expired last August. Fortunately, you don’t have to renew right away; as long as your passport is less than five years out of date, you can use the renewal-by-mail form. If it’s more than five years out of date, you have to apply in person and use the same form as new passport applicants, which requires a $25 payment to the local office that accepts your application over and above the $110 passport fee.
Now that I’m planning a mission trip to Sierra Leone in November, I had to bite the bullet and renew. A couple of mission trip contributions made directly to me (instead of to LEAMIS, which is where people would normally contribute) paid for the $110 renewal fee plus the cost of new passport photos.
The application, along with my old passport, is now in the hands of the State Department, and it may be weeks before I get my new passport. They also return the old passport, with a hole punched through it to indicate that it’s no longer valid. That’s a good thing, because the visa stamps in the booklet are like little reminders of all your previous trips. It’s also great for showing off when you make mission trip presentations.
As I said, my old passport was from 2002. I’ve been reading up on the new passport design introduced in 2007, about the same time they started implanting RFID chips with your passport number and information into the passports. The new design was, I discover, almost universally reviled:
Here’s a quote from the NY Times story:
“It is like being given a coloring book that your brother already colored in,” said Michael Bierut, of the design firm Pentagram in New York City.
The complaints seem to be that the passport design is too garish and/or busy, and that it’s a little over-the-top in patriotic imagery. After all, say the critics, its primary function is to be shown to immigration officials from other countries, who are likely to be less-than-impressed by the Preamble to the Constitution, quotes from U.S. presidents, or imagery of bison on the Great Plains.
What little I’ve seen of the new design online doesn’t bother me that much. I do sort of understand some of the complaints – when you travel internationally, you’re proud of and grateful for your home country, but you try to avoid being the Ugly American who tries to shove the red, white and blue down everyone else’s throats. But I think immigration officials are probably too busy to take in, much less be offended by, the graphic design of any country’s passport. Their impressions of foreign countries are probably much more influenced by the behavior of frazzled and irritable travelers as they go through line.
The old passport book had the blank pages divided into quarters. I used to be a little annoyed that Kenya’s visa stamp was large enough to fill a whole page, which I considered wasteful and arrogant. My old passport wasn’t quite full, but it was getting there – and having the State Department add extra passport pages, which used to be free, now costs $82. $82! For blank pages! You can, if you think you’re going to be traveling heavily, order a fatter passport in the first place, and that is actually free.
Sorry, I was starting to ramble. At some point between my first three Kenya trips and my last two Kenya trips, the full-page rubber stamp was replaced by a full-page label, which features images of the “big five” – the five animals that give you bragging rights in terms of a safari. (I have seen all of the big five, but not all on the same trip.) The Kenyan visa label is not unlike the new U.S. passport – a celebration of the country’s heritage. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I still don’t think they should be taking up a whole page, but I have to admit the new label is more of a conversation piece.
Another thing that took up space in my old passport has now been eliminated. For a while, U.S. immigration was stamping your passport when you returned to the country. I don’t think they did so on my last couple of trips, and I’m not sure why they ever did. I’m not sure exactly what that stamp was supposed to document which isn’t already documented elsewhere.
Anyway, the new passport pages are not specifically divided into quarters, because of the artistic background imagery. I can understand the people who find the new imagery a bit over-the-top, but I don’t think I agree with them, at least not from the photos I’ve seen online.
Ask me again when I get my new passport.
A week ago, during the second half-hour of my normal Monday visit to Learning Way Elementary, I was asked to take a small group of kids into the computer room around the corner from Ms. Hester’s classroom and work on a little storybook with them. I had a very small class-clown problem. It was so small it really wouldn’t have been a problem except that I only had half an hour and I wanted to keep things moving so we could get through the entire storybook. I really, honestly, think it was more my problem, being an amateur, than the kid’s problem. I tried not to react too much – that only encourages the behavior – but that meant it was hard for me to get control of the situation. When I brought the kids back into Ms. Hester’s room, I indicated a little frustration at how things had gone.
Today, when I got to Ms. Hester’s room, the first thing she did was bring the young man to me and have him apologize, which caused me to be both appreciative and deeply mortified. She said he’s actually a really bright kid, which I absolutely recognize. I sort of wanted to apologize to him for getting him in trouble.
I am continuing to enjoy this experience, and I look forward to it every week. The kids seem to like having a visitor in the classroom, and they’re familiar with me and used to me showing up. I was scared I’d have to miss this week due to testing, but they don’t test on Mondays and Ms. Aymett told me last week to come on ahead as usual.
I went out for a walk this afternoon. At some point – and I wish I had noticed where, because it might have made things easier – a grey mutt, without a collar that I could see (although he had long enough hair that a collar might have been hiding) began walking with me. He wasn’t right on my heels; sometimes he’d go out ahead of me, sometimes lag behind me.
I picked him up on one of the side streets, but at some point I got out onto Highway 82. There’s no sidewalk, and only a narrow strip to try to walk on between the pavement and the ditch. The dog ran back and forth across the highway, nearly getting hit a couple of times, and I know the drivers were looking at me and thinking, “Why doesn’t that idiot have his dog under control?” I kept trying to studiously ignore the dog in hopes he’d get distracted and move on elsewhere.
At one point on my regular route, there’s a little weiner dog that always barks at me. This time, he actually came out to the street to chase me, as if chasing me away was a higher priority now that I was associated with a competing dog.
As I got back off the highway and made the final walk up the hill to the apartments, he was ahead of me. When we got to the apartments, he was a little ways ahead of me, but he looked back to see if I was still there. After he turned back around, I broke into a sprint and ran around behind the back of the apartments. I knew he’d figure out which way I’d gone but, I hoped, not in time to see which door I went into. Does that make me a bad person? I can’t have a dog at the apartments; I’m not really a pet person, but if I were I’d probably be more of a cat person than a dog person.
For all I know, the dog already has an owner and was just following me for the heck of it. I’m not sure what I should have or might have done. I just went into passive-aggressive mode and left the dog to be someone else’s problem.